Top 5 Allied Health Careers
If you’re planning to invest the time and money pursuing a college degree, you want some assurance that years of education and tuition will yield job opportunities and a healthy paycheck. While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects fields requiring a master’s degree to grow the fastest through 2020, there are plenty careers requiring only an associate’s degree that combine good pay and job growth.
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With a 2-year degree you can step into some of the best paying allied health careers around, including some commanding salaries above the average pay for graduates with a bachelor’s degree (which was $42,500 in 2012, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers).
Allied health includes careers in the healthcare industry outside the traditional jobs of doctor, nurse and dentist. They include a large range of occupations, from patient care and operating diagnostic equipment to administrative duties such as medical billing and coding.
Here are some of the top-paying professions you can pursue with an associate’s degree in allied health along with the BLS projection of growth through 2020. Half the salaries are above the median salary and half are below.
1. Dental Hygienist. Dental hygienists do more than clean teeth or check for gum and oral diseases. They may take and develop dental X-rays, apply sealants and polish teeth. They also advise patients about proper dental care and cleaning and can assist the dentist during treatment.
The job typically requires an associate’s degree in dental hygiene. The median salary is $68,200 with a projected job growth of 38%.
2. ECG or EKG Technician. These workers operate and maintain equipment that tracks and diagnoses problems in a patient’s heart and vascular system, working closely to monitor patients during the test and explain procedures. They also use ultrasound equipment to create electrocardiogram images of a patient’s heart health.
An associate’s degree will provide entry into the career. The median salary is $49,400 with the projected job growth of 29%.
3. EMT or Paramedic. This career puts you on the front line of health care, often the first on the scene to treat a sick or injured patient. Most often, these are the ambulance or fire rescue workers who respond to an emergency and also take patients to a hospital or medical facility.
A paramedic, the most advanced level in this profession, requires a two-year program with an associate’s degree. The median pay is $30,300 with the projected job growth at 33%.
4. Health Information Specialist. Someone in this profession tracks and manages vital information about patients that can include test results, diagnoses, treatment and overall medical history. They also code and classify the information for reference and billing as well as entry into data bases.
This field normally requires an associate’s degree in health information technology. The median salary is $32,300 and the BLS projects job growth at 21%.
5. Medical Assistant. These are often the ones patients see first and spend the most time with during a visit to the doctor. They take patient information, take blood pressure and pulse, help with the doctor’s examination and give shots. They also often record the patient’s information for the physician.
An associate’s degree can open the way to this field with a combination of classroom and lab classes. The median salary for medical assistants is $28,800 and job growth is projected to be 31%.
As a bonus, the BLS projects health care will be the fastest growing field in the nation, outstripping computer and information technology and personal care and service, two other areas that can be entered into with a 2-year degree. With a 25% growth rate through 2020, health care is well above 14 percent for overall job growth nationwide.
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A population becoming older and more infirm, along with the advance of technology for patient care and diagnosis, are two factors that will drive growth in the allied health professions.